The first time I read this piece, when a friend “just happened” to share it on Facebook over the weekend, I don’t think I noticed the new word. I thought it said socialstructured, two familiar words written together … but it didn’t. It said socialstructed. And when I finally noticed the word and traced its history to Marina Gorbis’s book and this early review, I suddenly saw the power of both the word and the concept. For Gorbis, it seems, socialstructing involves “creating a new economy around social connections and social rewards” and “moving away from the dominance of the depersonalized world of institutional production.” I haven’t read the book yet, but it seems that she addresses everything from learning (as she does in the Fast Company piece where I discovered the term) to organization and governance. It’s a new word for the new world that seems to be emerging all around us.
In short, I think Gorbis has found a term for the move from factory to community that we keep talking about here. Clearly I need to get the book and read it soon!
I also “just happened” to rediscover Blake Boles’ book The Art of Self-Directed Learning and its accompanying website this weekend. Boles makes the point that self-directed doesn’t mean isolated. As a self-directed learner, you might very well seek out (and excel in) a formal learning environment or class. But when you do, it’s because you see the value and importance of what you will learn there. No need for external compulsion from Some Authority Figure.
I think of The Girl for all those years when she did take dance lessons … and of her decision to stop. And I think of her decision to try out Marching Band this year … and of the joy she’s experienced in her new role as a percussionist, and the ways that she and her friends work together to help each other improve. I also think of The Boy and the self-directed areas he’s embraced, from Scouting to fencing to gaming with friends. There’s a lot of socialstructing going on … and now I have a one-word term for it.
How much socialstructing are we doing in the Latin Family at District Y and District Q? The District Q Latin Family told me early on that they were a joyful learning community, and they’ve proven it over and over again. The mystery creation process was the highlight of what we’ve done so far, I think, but tomorrow we’ll embarking on a different kind of socialstructing. If you’re familiar with the Tres Columnae Project storyline, you know that Valerius’ wife Caelia has died before the eruption of Vesuvius; in fact, Valerius initially refuses to leave the house because he wants to die and be buried with his wife. But the details of her death have never been revealed … except, to a degree, in one story which might or might not belong at the end of Lectio XXIX. We’ll read that story tomorrow, right before the upcoming long weekend for both District Q and District Y, and we’ll decide whether it’s out of place, whether it’s satisfying, or whether we want to create more stories of Caelia’s illness. The District Y marking period ends this week, but District Q has a trimester schedule; we’ll have another few weeks until their marking period ends, and as we read the eruption stories (and some excerpts from Pliny’s letters about the eruption), we may be building a set of stories about Caelia’s final illness, too. I’m sure you can see the socialstructing in action there!
Meanwhile, everyone in the District Y Latin Family will be wrapping up our first marking period with the Major Assessment process. For the beginners, the process is rather similar to what I “always” did at Former School: there’s an Individual Response where you read some Latin aloud, tell me what you understood, and find some noun and verb forms, and then there’s a Collaborative or Product Response where you review a set of stories (the Ferox, Medusa, Sabina, and Ridiculus sequence from the end of Lectio IV) and make a Character Diagram for one of the major characters. The process obviously generates Some Numbers For The Gradebook, but it’s also a chance to celebrate together, to see how much more we’re able to read and understand today than we could a few weeks ago. And we share the products together, so “social connections and social rewards” have their place even in Exam Week.
For the intermediate and advanced District Y Latin Family, there’s an option of a short oral response or a longer written one for the Individual Response. They’ll be making Collaborative or Product Responses too, Character Diagrams for someone in Lectio XV for the intermediate group and Lectio XXIV for the advanced group. Socialstructing is going on there, too … and I’ve deliberately responded to their socially-transmitted signals by providing the Written Response option and by limiting the number of stories they have to consult for the Product. The small classes at District Y probably always felt somewhat like a learning community, but the intermediate and advanced classes had a Particular Routine with their Former Teacher and the Old Textbook. I’ve tried to be mindful of those existing structures as we try new approaches … and my mindfulness and flexibility are key to the socialstructing. If I imposed the One Right Way, we really couldn’t be a learning community at all!
And that’s why socialstructing is harder and easier than the factory-model approach with its One Right Way. It’s harder because you have to find the way together … but it’s easier because the whole community can get involved in wayfinding, and because we end up with something meaningful and deeply personal that we built together. I wonder what other new insights and discoveries await in the days and weeks to come!